The Blending of Summer and Autumn

In Virginia, August was the depth of summer. The hottest days, the highest of humidity made all the worse if a tropical storm or hurricane came winding up the coast. We had regular days where the heat index was over 100 and I wouldn’t go outside if you paid me. The humidity was oppressive, choking your throat, a chewable thing in your mouth, that was impossible to escape. With air conditioners going constantly, our windows would become steamy and the view outside blurry. August was when I would give up my determination to park as far from the store or work as possible to get additional steps in. I would pay that extra parking fee to be closer, to avoid being outdoors at all costs, and would relish when it stormed.

The last August I lived in Virginia I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and continuously fighting off the urge to vomit. My morning sickness became bad enough that medication intervened so that I wasn’t gagging in the middle of work meetings while my pregnancy was still a secret. At one point, we were hit by a strong storm that sent a deluge of rain down upon us. The roads flooded just as I was ready to leave work so I took off my shoes and walked barefoot through the three inches of rainwater to get to my car because I simply had to escape the office and all its scents. Despite being utterly drenched I found I was absolutely thrilled, the rain felt wonderful after dealing with the humidity for so long.

Autumn, the very concept of autumn, was something that we would see with an upturn of our noses in craft stores or the too-early pumpkin spice flavored everything, but you wouldn’t say “it feels like fall” in Virginia until October–if you were lucky. The green of summer clung to the trees for months, other than the few whose leaves turned brown and dropped early not due to the incoming autumn, but because of the heat or lack of rain.

But I no longer live in Virginia. Last year, when I moved to the Finger Lakes, I was completely swept up in the magic of the temperature difference in this northern area. Mind you, it’s about a 6 hour drive north so it’s not an incredibly long distance, but it’s enough for the weather to be completely different from Virginia. Perhaps I still am marveling at it all, but I’ve found that August is the true start of the transitionary period between summer and fall.

By this point, we’ve been in a drought for most of the summer which is messing with the plants and trees, so perhaps some of this is directly related, but I certainly wouldn’t truly know. All the same, elements of the changing season are present. The maple trees have lost their deep green shade and are now of a candy apple green variety, the stems of leaves have lost their green and now sport a variety of reddish tones. Walnuts are beginning to fall from the trees, their green shells still displaying their newness, but littering the sidewalk all the same and becoming a hazard for quick moving feet or wheels. The early apples of the year, the crab apples in various yards and the yellow transparent apples (or salt apples) have ripened and are falling from trees to be carried off by hungry squirrels to whatever burrows they have.

The summer crops are in full abundance as well. Piles and piles of squash, so much that you don’t know what to do with it all, and the first ripened peppers and tomatoes are at our beck and call. I’m much more of a tomato person than a squash person, so I’ve been extremely excited for this opportunity to begin making all the sandwiches, salads, and dinners I can think of with that little red fruit/vegetable. Sunflowers are blooming in all their glory and they are a flower I’ve always distinctly associated with scarecrows and tumbling autumn leaves.

But for all of this, there was a particular moment over the past few days that hit me hard and made me think “autumn is coming,” The heat broke, the winds came, and in the morning I was able to open a window and sit beside it as I love to do. It’s a favorite pastime and I feel such a proper way to wake up in the morning. In the low light of dawn, I looked out the window and listened and found, to my surprise, the sound of geese gathering and flying. I realize it’s far too early for them to begin their travels south, but I’ve always noticed that they become quite vocal for about a month before making that flight. It’s a steadfast reminder, as we begin this August with plans to swim and be outdoors, that September is just next month and with it the possibility of frost–at the very least, last Labor Day I was bundled in a sweater due to the drop in temperatures and thought, “fall is here,” and I suspect I’ll think it again quite soon.

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